Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier

Our Father, the Creator

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  (Genesis 1:1)

For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live... (1 Cor 8:6)

Jesus Christ, the Creator

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  (John 1:1-3)

...and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.  (1 Cor 8:6)

Holy Spirit, the Creator

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light...  (Genesis 1:2-3)

When you send forth your Spirit, they are created;
And you renew the face of the earth.  (Psalm 104:30)


Our Father, the Redeemer

But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  (Deuteronomy 7:8)

But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.  (Isaiah 63:16)

Jesus Christ, the Redeemer

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
(1 Peter 1:18-19)

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”).
(Gal 3:13)

Holy Spirit, the Redeemer

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  (Rom 8:23)

And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption(Ephesians 4:30)


Our Father, the Sanctifier

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely...
(1 Thess 5:23)

"Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.... Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth."
(John 17:11,17)

Jesus Christ, the Sanctifier

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
(Ephesians 5:25-27)

for both he who is sanctifying and those sanctified are all of one [family], for which cause he [i.e. Jesus, the only person of the Trinity who became a human] is not ashamed to call them brethren (Hebrews 2:11)

Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier

He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (Rom 15:16)

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  (1 Cor 6:11)

About Aron Wall

I am a Lecturer in Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge. Before that, I read Great Books at St. John's College (Santa Fe), got my physics Ph.D. from U Maryland, and did my postdocs at UC Santa Barbara, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Stanford. The views expressed on this blog are my own, and should not be attributed to any of these fine institutions.
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6 Responses to Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier

  1. NoughtPoint says:

    Hi Aron. I'm interested in discussing some previous topics you've blogged on regarding causation, cosmology, the universe, and even fine tuning. Is here an appropriate place, or should I go to those specific posts? I ask as I'm unsure whether older posts will be as active or relevant. What works better for you?



  2. Aron Wall says:

    As indicated in my comments policy, I would strongly prefer that you leave your questions/comments on a post that is topical whenever possible (even if it is a few years old), rather than just dropping them into whatever post is most recent. From my end I can see all comments sorted in chronological order, so it won't be any harder for me to find your commnet.

    (Be aware however that if you ask a question, there might be some delay before I can respond, espeically since I am due to have my 2nd child any day now, and there are also many comments that I never reply to, simply because I don't have the time or a useful response.)

  3. g says:

    Congratulations to Aron on the upcoming second-sprogging!

    I wonder whether this post would be more widely helpful if the subtext were made text. (Christianity has this notion of a Trinity of "Father, Son, and Spirit"; some people don't like those terms (perhaps because they feel that there's something too specifically male about them) and some of those people like to replace trinitarian formulas in Christian liturgy with kinda-similar things with other triplets like "creator, redeemer, sanctifier", the idea being that this is a way of referring to the same three Persons of the Trinity that avoids language they have trouble with; I'm guessing that Aron thinks this is silly and/or heretical, but in any case he's suggesting that this language fails to do what it's intended to because the Christian tradition sees all three Persons as doing all three things.)

    I don't think the implied criticism is fair, and I don't think the given quotations all show what Aron is suggesting they do.
    In the "Creator" section, the quotations about Jesus / "the Word" very notably don't say that he created things; they say that things were created through him. The ones about the Spirit also don't explicitly say that the Spirit does any creating. (The first, to my mind, doesn't even suggest that; the second does.)

    In the "Redeemer" section, the quotations about the Spirit don't say that the Spirit does any redeeming and to my mind don't even suggest that.

    But even if I am wrong about what those quotations say or imply, I don't think they offer good support for the criticism I take Aron to be making. (Of course I may be mistaken when I think he is making that criticism; perhaps he just thought "How wonderful it is that all three Persons of the Trinity do all three of these excellent things; I should post about it"; but I'd be surprised.) They reason they don't is that the Creator/Redeemer/Sanctifier thing isn't claiming that each of those activities is performed by one Person of the Trinity and no other. It's using those activities as titles, the idea being that each activity is particularly characteristic of one Person.

    Maybe Aron considers that it's wrong to think of particular activities as characteristic of particular Persons of the Trinity. But I would be comfortable betting quite a lot of money that if you took a random sample of, say, a hundred anglophone Christians and said "Suppose someone uses the titles Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier for the three Persons of the Trinity; which do you reckon is which?", at least 90 of them would get it right even if you randomized the order of listing those titles. And that the same would be true if you took your sample from any specific trinitarian denomination. And that the same would be true if instead of random people you picked, say, ministers, or people with formal qualifications in theology. I don't think the assignment of titles to Persons is arbitrary, or lacking justification in the Christian tradition or more specifically in the Bible. None of that requires those activities to be exclusively owned by one Person each.

    (Note 1: I am not making any claim about whether replacing Father/Son/Spirit by Creator/Redeemer/Sanctifier in any particular context is a good thing. Only commenting on the specifics of the particular objection I take Aron to be raising.)

    (Note 2: I am not myself a Christian, though I was one for many years. Anyone who feels inclined to discount my opinions on topics such as these for that reason is welcome to do so.)

  4. g says:

    (Bleh, I made a wrong guess at how to get paragraph breaks. My apologies for the wall o' text, not to be confused with the text o' Wall to which it is responding.)

  5. Mactoul says:

    The full act of creation is Irreducibly Trinitrian as discussed by Dorothy Sayers in The Mind of the Maker, following ancient sources. God the Father corresonds to the Idea, God the Son to the energy that implements the idea and God the Holy Spirit to the power of the creation. All are equally part of creation.

  6. Aron Wall says:

    I understand that the post would probably have gotten more engagement if I had set it up in the framework, "Here are these BAD PEOPLE who believe BAD THINGS!" But I'm not sure that those are the terms on which I want to drive more engagement here. In any case my immediate motivation for writing this post was messing around with a biblical concordance...

    I am, of course, aware that some theologians have feminist motivations for pushing the Creator/Redeemer/Sanctifier invocation of the Trinity. But it seems to me that this framework is heretical for reasons that are largely orthogonal to gender questions, so I'm not sure how helpful it is to discuss that motivation. If some people were being baptized "in the name of the Parent, the Child, and the Holy Spirit" then I guess one could have a more direct conversation about to what extent the use of masculine terminology for God is (or isn't) tied up with essential aspects of biblical revelation.

    (This blog post, while not related to the current question, is the most interesting thing I've read on that topic recently.)

    I'm not sure I can get behind the idea that we can settle such theological questions by doing associational polling among some class of people. After all, if I asked a bunch of Christians "suppose someone believes one of the persons of the Trinity is characterized by wrath, and another person is characterized by mercy, which two persons of the Trinity do you believe they are referring to?" there could be some strong correlations among the results, but that wouldn't make the appropriation of anger to the Father and mercy to the Son to be good theology. You need to allow for the answer "This question is badly phrased and this is not a helpful way to think about the Trinity."

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